Should Grandchildren be Forced to Write Grandma a Thank You Note

Watching the Today Show on NBC on January 22, 2013, I saw Philip Galanes, New York Times columnist and author of the book, “Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today,” discussing the disappearing thank-you note.  The video and article can be found at at

The article on the website is written by Dana Marcario, a mother who sends video tapes thank you notes from her preschool children. She tells us that Mr. Galanas relayed the story of a grandmother who wrote to him that the grandmother has never received a thank-you card for any of the birthday and Christmas presents she has given her grandchildren over the years.  This grandmother was annoyed.  This grandmother wanted Mr. Galanes advice about “how to demand a bit of gratitude.”   He recommended that grandma call the older grandchildren and call the parents of the younger grandchildren and say ‘It’d be really nice if I could hear when you get the gifts and how the kids liked them.” Mr. Galanes said “many of the grandparents who read his column favored a more subversive approach, suggesting that grandma send the grandchildren things like unsigned checks or empty gift boxes to get the point across. Others suggested including a pre-printed thank-you note with the gifts.”

Writing to grandmaGalanes continued “that while the older generation was all for giving today’s youngsters a bit of a nudge to prompt good etiquette, many kids were having none of it.”  From kids, Galanes said he heard things like, “I’ve never bought (or even seen) a stamp in my life.”  Another said, “If I have to send a thank you note, I’d rather not get a gift.”  “I think we’re in a generational shift. I think we’re in a serious shift,” Galanes said.

For those grandparents who suggested to Mr. Galanes that a solution was to send an unsigned check or an empty box, Grandma sarcastically suggests to them that their grandchildren must just jump up and down when they hear they are going to visit.  I have given my grandchildren stationery and preprinted thank you notes too as a hint, but have come to realize that I am the grandma who enjoys giving a gift in person.  The hug is greater than any thank you note.  You reap what you sow.  Is the gift giving for the grandparent or for the child?

This is Grandma’s advice and recommendations on thank you notes from grandchildren.

Yes, in a perfect world, our grandchildren would write a thank you note every time we give them a gift.  To be honest, my grandchildren would be writing a LOT of thank you notes.  My oldest daughter has my two oldest grandchildren write thank you notes for their birthday gifts.  I am sure my grandson’s camp counselor made him write a thank you note for his camp package from Grandma.  I have folders for each grandchild (and each child) in which I keep these notes and every card they have sent me.  Somehow I think the grandparents who made the suggestions to Mr. Galanes don’t have such folders.

I think there seems to be a distance or disconnect between the complaining grandmother and her grandchildren.  It seems that the check arrives from her without what I call “Grandma hype.”  I use hyperbole to get attention such as, “I have something BIG to talk to you about,” when it is a miniature car.  I make up songs and stories and make a fuss.  Yes, I admit I talk to grandchildren about presents regularly and often.  Children love talking about presents and will stay on the telephone talking about the truck or electronic item or such they crave.   I never have to worry about running out of things to talk to them about on the telephone. If there is a lull in the conversation, I just ask about a toy they want and they want to stay on the telephone.

When I was visiting my granddaughter last time, she saw an electronic locking diary on a television commercial.  Her desire for it–as all children are taken in by ads– became a grandma and grandchild activity.  We researched the diary, checked colors and prices, looked at the reviews, and even though the reviews were just okay, she wanted it so she could keep things from her older brother.  So, we ordered it in her desired color. The only stipulation was that when it arrived we would open it together on Face Time. We did.  Suddenly, she put me on pause.  I asked why.  She said she texted me.  She showed me how to pause Face Time and read my message.  My granddaughter’s text said, “we are facetiming right now.  Thank you for the gift.” She came back on and asked me to text her back and showed me how to do pause and text while remaining on Face Time.  I texted her, “I love you. You are beautiful.”  She immediately texted back, “I thought you were going to say thank you for the thank you for the gift.” Now that is a great thank you for Grandma.  How cool is it that my six year old granddaughter is teaching me about my smart phone!  Is it still cool to say cool?

I try to order on prime two day shipping.  When my grandchildren want a gift they want it right away and, of course, I want to give it to them right away.  You would think that would mean getting in the car and going to a store, when, in reality, in this day and age, the store probably does not stock the color she wants.  Of course, I check for coupons and discount codes.  I send the gift addressed to my daughters with “For Mema” after their names.  They know this box remains unopened and waiting for my instructions if it is to open on Face Time or to wait for my next visit.

My grandchildren are encouraged to have wish lists on and we discuss, dissect, comparison shop, read reviews together and THEN they KNOW TO EXPECT something in the mail.  I read somewhere that humans enjoy things more when there is planning and anticipation involved.  Why not use that psychology and have fun shopping and shipping with our grandchildren! So, the best thank you “note” for Grandma if grandchildren just have to open a gift when Grandma is not present, is to open it on FaceTime together.

Grandma not only recommends that you use gift giving to teach gratitude, but that you also use gift giving to teach children to make wise choices as shoppers using the Internet.  We have the ability to comparison shop with ease together, even on electronics in two different states!  Why not teach comparison shopping to our grandchildren? Remember, one of my best skills and favorite hobbies is shopping, and now I add shopping with my grandchildren to that lists of favorites.

Yes, we send checks or deposit money in grandchildren’s college funds.  But, frankly they don’t know and I do not think they can comprehend being thankful for money for college at their ages of almost two to nine.  We also give them additional gifts, even gifts of personalized thank you notes!  I just realized now that it might be helpful in getting written thank you notes to send a book of stamps!  I now understand from Mr. Galanes’ interview and article that my grandchildren may never have paid attention to a stamp or know one is required to mail something. I have to ask them.

Yes, Mr. Galanas, there is a generational shift, but not between our children and us or our grandchildren and us.  The generational shift is between older grandparents and us baby boomer grandparents. Our children are busy and to demand anything of them that adds one more chore to their list is not what I really want to do, no matter how nice it would be to receive a written thank you note from our grandchildren.  Our grandchildren are busy, programmed, and of the internet generation technologically savvy at such young ages, which is beyond our imaginations.  We boomer grandparents communicate with them via email, text, and, preferably Face Time so we can see their smiling faces.  We are connected.  We are not only Internet savvy, we are grandchildren savvy.  We understand how to maneuver what we can and to enjoy what we get.

So, the ultimate Grandma trick to getting thank you’s from grandchildren is the connection with the grandchildren and working toward a close and intimate relationship.  I give 99.99% of all gifts to grandchildren IN PERSON at the next visit, telling them in advance what I am bringing in my suitcase.  The best gift to me is seeing the joy on their faces, and receiving the hugs and kisses and appreciation in person.  It gives me the opportunity to photograph the grandchild with their gift so I can put the photograph in their annual photograph album.  They will remember what they got from grandma for every birthday then, and hopefully show their children and their grandchildren.  Giving gifts and creating memories to pass on.  Can there be anything better?

I cherish the picture and the happiness on their face as my best thank you note.






  1. Love, love, love this article!!

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